4. Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
Instead of answering the obligatory question, "Plastic or paper?" why not invest in some reusable canvas bags? The key to this, I've found, is keeping the bags in your car. Once you've unpacked your groceries, leave the empty bags by your front door and the next time you go to your car, take them with you.
Even if you opt for the plastic or paper grocery bags, you can still bring them with you on your next trip for reuse.
5. Buy Products With Less Packaging
The less packaging you buy, the less garbage you create. So look for ways to avoid excess packaging. For example, buy large bottles of juice or frozen juice concentrate instead of juice boxes; get large sizes of products rather than individually wrapped ones (portion them out into reusable containers when needed); and consider buying items like nuts and beans in bulk from a health food store or a market like Whole Foods.
It's difficult to avoid food packaging completely, so when you find yourself with boxes and plastic trays, be sure to recycle them (if your recycler accepts them). Just fold up the boxes so they lie flat in your recycling bin.
The two worst packages in the grocery store, in my opinion, are the cans that cannot be recycled or reused: pressurized whipped cream cans, and cooking-spray cans. Instead, whip up cream fresh with your mixer, or use a product like Cool Whip Light that comes in a recyclable container. And instead of cans of cooking spray, get some refillable metal or plastic oil sprayers from companies like Misto or Pampered Chef.
6. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Find out how to recycle in your area -- what the recycler accepts, whether it needs to be sorted, and where you can go to recycle. In many cities, the garbage company picks up your recycle bin on your curb, just like it does your garbage.
You can make it easy to recycle in your kitchen by finding a convenient spot (perhaps under or next to the sink) where you keep a small garbage can to collect recyclables. Every day or two, a family member can bring the recycling from the kitchen to the larger bin or can outside.